Abe aims at opposition support for constitutional changes

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he will try to persuade lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan to support his bid to amend the Constitution following next month's upper house election.

Abe told reporters in Warsaw he will try to secure the two-thirds majorities of all members in each house of the Diet required to amend the Constitution.

"There must be lawmakers supporting revisions of some articles of the Constitution not only in the Japan Restoration Party and the Your Party but also in the DPJ," the premier said, conceding that it will be "impossible" to secure enough seats after just one upper election to push through the amendments with ruling party support alone.

The Japan Restoration Party and the Your Party are conservative opposition parties. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner the New Komeito party already have more than two-thirds of seats in the powerful lower house.

Revising the Constitution is one of Abe's major policy goals, and he has suggested he will start with amending Article 96 to ease the rules for initiating constitutional change.

Abe said, "Some argue that even under the constitutional amendment initiatives over pacifism, basic human rights and popular sovereignty, the two-thirds rule should be left unchanged. I will discuss (the constitutional issue) with such arguments in mind."

Abe was in Poland on the first leg of his trip to Europe, during which he will also attend a two-day summit of the Group of Eight major nations from Monday in Northern Ireland.

He suggested he will decide whether to reshuffle his Cabinet following the House of Councillors election, saying, "We must deal with the Tokyo assembly election and the upper house election first. For now I'm not thinking about it at all."

The premier also said he will give priority to cutting the investment tax over reducing the corporate tax rate in drawing up a new growth strategy to be released in fall.

"The important thing is to stimulate corporate investment," he said. "I believe it will lead the economy into a positive growth cycle."

Abe said the LDP-New Komeito bloc should be able to secure a majority in the 242-seat upper chamber in the election slated for July 21, when half of the seats are up for grabs.

The LDP is the second largest force in the chamber after the DPJ. It won back a comfortable majority from the DPJ in the more powerful lower house in the election in December.